I’m beginning to wonder if much of life is about learning to let go.
Letting go of expectations. Of past baggage. Of bitterness. Of the person you used to be. Letting go of old measuring sticks, narrow-minded thinking and an inability to deal with the gray. Letting go of the formulas that promised a clean route around the messiness of life. Letting go of the notion that you will “just know” — almost instantly — whether you will click with this person as a friend or a lover. Letting go of the wheel and learning to relax as Jesus takes over the journey.
I recently started the new Beth Moore study called “Children of the Day,” which walks through the letters to the Thessalonians. In her introductory lesson, Beth drew our attention to the fact that Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians began right after a horrendous “break-up” with his dear friend and partner in ministry, Barnabas. She asked us to think of our close friendships, and about how we feel after being torn away from a dear friend (whether through a conflict or merely a separation because of distance caused by a move, or a change in ministry). Once we’ve lost a close friend, we tend to shy away from making new ones. We can’t imagine that anyone new could become as dear as the one we lost.
Focusing on the first line in 1 Thessalonians, Beth reminded us that the three names listed — Paul, Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy — represented a new ministry partnership formed right after a devastating loss. It would seem that Paul might be tempted to keep from developing a strong bond with these younger recruits since he had just lost his best friend. But this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. In fact, Beth drew our attention to Philippians 2:20 where Paul declares of Timothy, “I have no one else like him” (NIV). Beth reminded us that, in God’s plan, the next person we meet could become one of the dearest people in our lives. She encouraged us to open our hearts to the friendships and relationships which God may want to give us in the next unexpected or ordinary encounter. Even when reeling from relational loss (permanent or temporary), we don’t want to hold so tightly to the past that we refuse to open our hearts to the future.
While these thoughts have been swirling around in my head, I’ve also been reflecting on another kind of question: Is my idea of “what kind of person I click with” prompting me to pre-emptively dismiss potential “Timothy-types” from my inner circle? Am I willing to let go of some of my instant, subconscious judgments which “scratch someone off the list” during in the first introduction? As I ponder these questions, I realize that I mentally dismiss new acquaintances (regardless of gender) more than I’d like to admit. Paul looked at his new ministry partners with an open heart, with a willingness to become close friends. Am I clinging so tightly to past, present or faraway friendships that I’ve decided there’s no room for another one?
Then I started thinking more specifically about the “potential spouse” factor. How does my idea of “what kind of guy I click with” rush my subconscious judgments in those first minutes of small talk, or that first date? Am I chained to my own notions, unwilling to explore any unfamiliar paths out of fear or preconceived ideas? Am I open to the possibility of God’s surprises? I started reading Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb (great book!). I have been amazed to discover that her message almost dovetails with Beth Moore’s encouragement, though coming from a different perspective. She is challenging me to rethink my assumptions and judgments; and once more, I am learning to let go. Prematurely dismissing a potential friend or potential spouse (for personal, rather than biblical reasons) makes life seem much simpler, more predictable and “safe.” But life isn’t safe. It isn’t predictable. And it isn’t simple. It’s complicated, scary, and surprising.
And maybe the Good Shepherd would like me to hold His hand a little tighter while widening my heart.
How about you?